VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds baseball team is set to play a home-and-home weekend conference series with the Concordia University Cavaliers of Portland, Ore. Currently, the ‘Birds are tied for first in the NAIA West Grouping standings with a record of 10-2. UBC owns an overall record of 27-8. and an in-conference record of 10-2. The Cavaliers’ record is 15-17 and they are 7-5 in conference, in a tie for third.
The teams have met four times already this season, with UBC claiming three wins. The first meeting was at the Treasure Valley Collegiate Baseball Icebreaker back in February, where UBC was victorious 9-1. Last month, the ‘Birds traveled to Portland, Ore., and took two out of three low-scoring games 2-1 and 5-0. They lost the other 1-0.
The Thunderbirds have been riding an offensive wave that most recently swept the Oregon Tech Hustlin’ Owls last weekend in Klamath Falls, Ore. The ‘Birds defeated the Owls 13-7, 9-6, 6-1, and 12-3 in the conference series, thanks in part to Muscle Milk Athlete of the Week Bruce Yari (Waterloo, Ont.), who had three home runs: a grand slam in Game 2 on Saturday, and a homer in each of the Sunday games. The home runs were part of his 10 RBI and the team’s colossal total of 40 runs that weekend.
“The offence was able to go into the weekend with confidence,” head coach Terry McKaig said, reflecting on the week’s success. “One of the biggest adjustments in university baseball is the different parks. At Thunderbird Park, everything you hit up is an out because it’s so big. Down in Klamath Falls, the dimensions are smaller and when we were there, the weather was great and the air was light at the high elevation so the ball really moved. The hitters knew they could do some damage and put up some numbers. And they did.”
The biggest focus for the Thunderbirds will be overcoming the shortened practice week. Easter Sunday poses an unusual circumstance that has forced the NAIA West to have a home-and-home series that begins Friday instead of Saturday. After the long travel back from Klamath Falls, Ore., rest is a top priority for UBC.
“We got back really early Monday morning,” McKaig said. “We got the four wins we needed down at OIT, and now we’ve got to look ahead to Concordia. Our main focus is on getting our bodies ready and our arms rested. With the shortened week our focus is first on mental prep, then physical. It’s not the best situation but it’s uncharted territory for both teams, so we’ll both be adjusting there.”
The Cavaliers are on a four-game winning streak. Their most recent triumph came Tuesday evening in a non-conference matchup against the Pacific University Boxers by a 6-5 score. The win was the result of a late comeback in which Concordia scored three unearned runs in the seventh and shut down the Boxers’ offence to seal the win.
The weekend before they took three of four conference games, winning against the Corban University Warriors 6-4, 10-7, and 2-1 after losing Game 1 4-1.
First pitch is set for 11 a.m. Friday down in Portland, Ore., with a rematch following right after. The series will wrap up Saturday at 12 noon at Thunderbird Park with Games 3 and 4.